Dateline: Munich

/ February 9, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama's national security adviser, James Jones, yesterday delivered his most detailed public remarks to date on his plans for leading the National Security Council. Speaking in Munich to the annual conference on security policy, Jones said the NSC is paying increased attention to the United States' capability to counter weapons of mass destruction as well as “placing a far higher priority on cyber security.”

From the transcript:

The President has made clear that to succeed against 21st century challenges, the United States must use, balance, and integrate all elements of national influence:  our military and our diplomacy, our economy and our intelligence, and law enforcement capacity, our cultural outreach, and as was mentioned yesterday, the power of our moral example, in short, our values.  Given this role, the NSC is by definition at the nexus of that effort.  It integrates on a strategic sense all elements of our national security community towards the development of effective policy development and interagency cooperation.  But to better carry out the president’s priorities, the National Security Council must respond to the world the way it is and not as we wish it were.  And it must consider the fusion of our national priorities within the broader international context and interest.  The NSC’s mission is relatively simple.  It should perform the functions that it alone can perform and serve as a strategic center – and the word strategic is operative here – for the President’s priorities.  

Jones, retired Marine four-star general, also said the NSC must adapt to evolving challenges.

There are traditional priorities that we will manage.  But we must also update our outlook and sometimes our organization to keep pace with the changing world.  To give you just a few examples, the NSC today works very closely with President Obama’s National Economic Council, which is led by Mr. Larry Summers, so that our response to the economic crisis is coordinated with our global partners and our national security needs.  The NSC has worked closely with the White House Counsel’s office as we implement the President’s orders to ban torture and close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.  The National Security Council is undertaking a review to determine how best to unify our efforts to combat terrorism around the world while protecting our homeland.  And this effort will be led by Mr. John Brennan.

The National Security Council will be at the table as our government forges a new approach to energy security and climate change that demand broad cooperation across the U.S. Government and more persistent American leadership around the world.  And the NSC is evaluating how to update our capacity to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction while also placing a far higher priority on cyber security. There is no fixed model that can capture the world in all of its complexity.  What’s right today will have to be different four years from now or eight years from now.  And that’s precisely the point.  The NSC’s comparatively small size gives it a unique capacity to reinvent itself as required and to pivot on the key priorities of our time. 

-- Jason Sherman

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